He, at any rate, had not signed his name in the book. Had he seemed to have been there, it might so well have been a mere trick of the wine. Yet no matter how the doctor might seek to forget these things by dedicating himself to his patients and his medical researches; no matter how the other four members might hunt the fox, shoot their pheasants with long, single-barreled muzzle-loaders,
play cards at night with their neighbors, devote themselves to their home farms or to the bottle,
each man knew that unless he wished once more to face the hateful, leering presence of the
President, at the Annual Dinner on 2 November, he and the others must not fail to turn up and
record their objections to the dinner being held each year 'in the month of October and not less
than seven days before the Feast of All Souls.'
So for five years, five wretched men met annually in October, lodged their formal
objection to the holding of the dinner and the Secretary duly recorded it in the Minute Book.
Then another member died and, like the little nigger boys, 'then there were four.'
For eighteen years after, the four haunted, wretched survivors continued to meet each
October and record their protests. Among them was Charles Bellasis. He had become middleaged
and respectable. Jesus College had once more admitted its one-time renegade Fellow to its
ancient bosom. He was a model of decorum. He lived in the rooms at the top of Cow Lane.
Finally, we come to the year 1766. Under the date of 27 January appears this entry in the
'Jan. 27th. On this day, Francis Witherington, Secretary, became an Incorporeal Member.
The same day this Book was delivered to me, James Harvey.' Harvey died a month later. On 7
March is another entry, which tells us that William Catherston is the new Secretary. He lived
little more than two months. For, on 18 May, Charles Bellasis sets down the fact that Catherston
had died on that date and that he, Bellasis, was now the last Corporeal of the Club and therefore
Now you will remember that under Rule 8 it was laid down, hard and fast, that an
objection to the holding of the annual Dinner could only be lodged by 'the major part of the
Society, that is to say, four at least.' So long as four of them were alive, they were safe. When
Francis Witherington died on 27 January in that year of 1766, it left only Harvey, Catherston and
Bellasis. Harvey and Catherston, by now middle-aged, were probably so terrified out of their wits
at having to face the ghastly banquet in November that they died of heart failure or sheer terror-
perhaps by their own hands.
Bellasis was a tougher type. He determined to live. Moreover, he determined to defy the
rules of the Club. He was now a respected, honored and more or less welcome Fellow of Jesus.
The young generation knew nothing of his past. The older ones had either forgotten or forgiven
What happened behind the heavy oaken door to the top of those steep stairs in Cow Lane
in the dark paneled room on the night of 2 November will never be known. One would have
thought, to begin with, that Bellasis would either have left College that night altogether and
stayed elsewhere with a friend in a house full of lively people or, at the least, would have slept
that night in the rooms of another Don or Fellow of the College. He was not that sort. It may be
that the spark of his old youthful spirit of devil-may-care still flickered bravely. At any rate he
stayed in his rooms and 'sported his oak.'
At ten o'clock, precisely, pandemonium broke out. Shouts and yells, oaths and bawdy
songs, blasphemies against God, the crashing of glass and the breaking of furniture horrified the
Dons shivered in the Senior Common Room. Undergraduates quaked in their beds. The
Master fumed in his Lodge. The porters and other college servants trembled in their shoes. None
dare climb the steep stairs of Cow Lane, to discover what unholy visitors were reveling in the
rooms of Charles Bellasis, Fellow of the College. Dead on midnight, the uproar stopped. The
College slept uneasily the rest of that night.
When dawn came the Master and braver Dons, with some sturdy workmen, crept up the
steep staircase. They listened outside the stout, low, oak door of Bellasis's rooms. Not a sound.
Quiet as the grave. They knocked. No answer. They rattled loudly on the door. There came no
'Break the door down,' the Master ordered.
A sledge-hammer splintered the lock. Crowbars sent the bolts starting from their sockets.
The door splintered and swung open.
There, at the top of the long oaken table, sat Charles Bellasis. Dead. His head was bent
low; his folded arms shielded his eyes. He had died in fear of the dreadful sight, whatever it may
have been, which he had seen.
About the table were six other chairs, drawn up as though at a dinner. Some were turned
upside down. Some were smashed. Broken glass glittered in the thin light of dawn. Smashed
china littered the floor. The terrible smell of death was in the cold air.
On the table lay the red, leather-bound Minute Book, in front of Bellasis. Goose-quill pen,
a silver ink-pot and a sand-sprinkler were beside it. On the last page, dated 2 November, were
written, for the first time since 1742, the full names of the seven members of the Everlasting
Club. None had given his address. In the bold hand of the President, Alan Dermot, was written